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Video Catches Hospital 'Dumping' Incident

For many months, Los Angeles city officials have complained that regional hospitals are dropping off their indigent patients in the city's tough Skid Row area. On Wednesday, officials at a homeless shelter released a videotape that allegedly catches one hospital in the act. The incident has become part of an ongoing investigation that could result in criminal or civil penalties.

Security cameras outside the Union Rescue Mission, the city's largest homeless shelter, show a taxi pulling a U-turn in front of the building. Several seconds later, an elderly woman in a hospital gown shuffles into view. She appears to have only hospital socks on her feet, and walks in the street for a while before turning back to the mission entrance.

Mission worker Regina Chambers met the woman outside, later identified as Carol Reyes, a homeless resident of the city of Gardena, a dozen miles south of downtown Los Angeles.

"When I first approached her, she was very disoriented, didn't know where she was or what she was doing," Chambers says. "All she knew is that she had been to a hospital."

It was later determined that Reyes was released from the Kaiser Permanente hospital in the city of Bellflower, 16 miles southeast of the mission.

City Council member Jan Perry, whose district includes L.A.'s Skid Row, says hospitals may be dumping their homeless patients in downtown Los Angeles because the cities hosting the hospitals don't want to deal with their homeless problem.

"We have a very high concentration of services in a small geographic area," Perry says. "And for municipalities who don't want to... extend themselves to the homeless, it's an easy excuse to just bring them over here and leave them here."

Los Angeles city prosecutors have been investigating the dumping of patients on Skid Row for the past three months to see whether state or federal laws have been broken. The videotape of Reyes will now be part of that investigation.

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Ina Jaffe is a veteran NPR correspondent covering the aging of America. Her stories on Morning Edition and All Things Considered have focused on older adults' involvement in politics and elections, dating and divorce, work and retirement, fashion and sports, as well as issues affecting long term care and end of life choices. In 2015, she was named one of the nation's top "Influencers in Aging" by PBS publication Next Avenue, which wrote "Jaffe has reinvented reporting on aging."